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As I mentioned yesterday, in order to kick start my weight loss goals for the umpteenth time, I decided to follow my sister’s lead and join Weight Watchers.  Since I’ve been tracking my calories for months now, I have to admit, I was a huge skeptic as to how Weight Watchers would change things, besides the fact that now I’m paying to keep track of what I eat.  So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what they have to offer.

I joined about a week and a half ago, and was able to take advantage of their “Sign Up For Free” promotion.  I get access to the site and the mobile application for 3 months for $53.85.  The sign-up fee of $29.95 is waived.  After 3 months, each month costs around $18.  My main goal for these first few months was to see if that $18 was worth it to continue.

I’m not much for meetings after work, so the online plan was the best option for me.  When you sign up, it asks you to put in your stats and set goals.  My favorite thing about the goal-setting part was that they encouraged you to lose 10% of your weight to start out, not to focus on what they deem your “healthy range.”  I’m encouraged by their attention to the fact that realistic goals are not only healthy, but also much more motivating.  For me, I had to lose about 9 pounds to lose 10% of my weight.  Since I’ve been struggling the past few years with not being able to break out of a certain 3 pound range, the number seemed impossible.  But, we press on.

To be honest, I had always thought of Weight Watchers as the type of program where they made it easy to track food they endorsed, but not anything else.  I was glad to see I was wrong about that.  While the Points Plus tracker doesn’t have every food I’ve ever eaten, it has a sizeable database, with the option to calculate the points for food it does not have.  That feature, both on the site and on the iPhone application has been extremely helpful for me in balancing following the plan with Jared’s wants and needs.

As everyone knows, Weight Watchers assigns you points for the day in order to help you meet your goals.  I receive 29 points for the day.  It seems like a lot, and it actually has worked out pretty well so far.  Knowing how many points I have for the day has helped me map out my meals first thing in the morning, and then fit in snacks around them so that I never feel so hungry that I overindulge.  The difference between Weight Watchers and just tracking calories is that fruit and vegetables have NO points.  This has really encouraged me to use them a lot more generously throughout the day as snacks and with meals, something I certainly wasn’t doing when tracking with Livestrong.  After all, if I was going to waste 80 calories, I’d rather waste it on something good rather than an apple or a red pepper.  To date, that has been the biggest change I was able to make.

Another change that the points system has helped me to be more aware of is alcohol.  For those that know us, you know that Jared and I appreciate a quality beer and a wonderful wine, and it’s not unusual for us to have a glass with dinner a few times a week.  However, for 6 points for a beer and 4 for wine, I’ve really learned that liquid calories are a great place for me to cut back.  It hasn’t been easy, given how much we really enjoy trying new things, but it’s a necessity that I’m sure will contribute to my success.

In addition to your points, Weight Watchers assigns  a Weekly Allowance that allows you to indulge a bit from time to time in a very structured way.  I have 49 Weekly Points Plus Allowance points.  To me, that seems like too many, so I’m still getting used to how to use them and when to use them.  On a week like today, when I know I’ll be going out all weekend, it helps to have so many, because I can plan around using them.  As I get more used to the plan, I’ll write about how to effectively use these without overindulging.

There’s so much more that I can say about the Weight Watchers plan, but that will have to wait for another week.  For now, after one week, I’m 4 pounds down and about halfway to my first goal.  Something must be working, so I’ll be pushing through to see how far I can make this go!

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions when it comes to my health.  After all, that’s a year round thing.  However, I am constantly on the look-out for new ways to lose weight.  I’ve been ignoring the Weight Watchers hype for so long, that I thought it was finally time to give it a try.

To combat all the protests I’ve been hearing such as “Why do you need to do that??” or “You shouldn’t pay for something like that!” let me just say that when you’ve been at this weight loss and working out thing as long as I have, sometimes you just need something else to move the needle.  I’ve had to promise myself not to get frustrated by the stories of people who lose like 20 pounds in the first few months.  For me, that’s just not going to happen.  In my mind, the people that lose so much weight right out the gate probably haven’t been monitoring their calories on LiveStrong or working out with Jackie and Jillian.

Tomorrow, I’ll be going a bit more in depth about the Weight Watchers tools that are available to subscribers.  I’ve been on it a bit over a week, and have lost 4 pounds, so I’m hoping all is not lost.  As I track my progress, here are some challenges I know I’ll face.

1.)  Weekends. My weekend currently looks like this:  Friday, drinks and dinner with one of Jared’s high school friends.  Saturday, The Melting Pot with some girlfriends, and possibly a piano bar later that night.  Considering that Jared and I won’t have a weekend at home until March 19th, I know it’s going to be hard for me to control where and when I eat on weekends.  This has by far been my biggest hurdle so far to weight loss, so I’m anxious to see how I may be able to conquer it this time around.

2.)  Jared. It’s a proven fact that when you embark on a weight loss plan, it’s much easier to do it with someone else.  However, Jared isn’t into the whole not being able to enjoy a beer or a treat when he wants to, so I’m doing this alone.  While he’s been very good about allowing me to plan our menu around my “Points”, it’s extremely hard for me to say no to him when he wants to go grab a quick drink with friends or eat out.  So far, we’re doing well, but guilt is definitely setting in.  Especially since one meal I made he hated due to the amount of vegetables it had.  Oops….

3.)  Myself. I’m only supposed to weigh in every Wednesday.  Do you think that keeps me away from the scale?  Nope.  If I see numbers I don’t like, I tend to get discouraged.  So discouraged, that I almost throw in the towel.  I know I need to keep going, since this is a process, but I’ll have to conquer a lot of my body image demons to make this work.

Game on, Weight Watchers.  See you at the finish line.  If there really is one….

I mentioned The Beer Mapping Project when I was talking about Egan & Sons recently, and felt this site deserved a bit more exploration.  As I mentioned, Jared is pretty familiar with this site in his constant quest to find quality beers in our area.  There are a lot of great features on this site, so I’ll highlight just a few of them in this post.

1.)  Location Lookup:  This is great for people that travel a lot or simply want to get a bit more familiar with breweries, beer bars, home brew options, beer stores or brewpubs.  Simply type in a city or zip code, and a list will populate with the option to sort by the type of venue you are looking for.  I had to search using just New Jersey, since a zip code search wasn’t giving any results for me.  Still a great way to find places in the area, just make sure you refine your search.  And again, perfect if you’re in an unfamiliar city and need a place to eat and drink!

2.)  Beer Trip Planner:  This is a beer lover’s personal heaven-the ability to plan a trip centered around quality beer drinking.  Simply type in a city, name, or postal code, and a list will populate with suggested options in the area.  Add that to your list, and once you are done adding, the site takes you to Google Maps for directions. Pretty sweet. Once again, a great way to plan a trip!

3.)  City Beer Maps:  If you live in, or are planning to visit a big city and need help finding a great place to have a beer, this is another search function that makes that super easy.  Simply click on your city, and a map loads which pinpoints different types of beer establishments around the city.  I chose New York, and each listing allows you to click through for more details.

Whoever came up with the idea for this site should really be Jared’s best friend.  Seriously, Jared is addicted to this site.  I could go on and on about the fabulous features of this site.  But it would take days.  And we have drinking to do.  So, off with you to search!

I don’t like driving.  At all.  And driving in the snow?  Well, that’s been known to set me off the edge into a full on panic attack.  (Just ask Jared-he’s unfortunately been present for one too many!)

I’ve worked at a few different places since I left college, and most places had a pretty flexible work from home policy in bad weather.  I’ve worked for some very understanding people who know about my slight driving phobia. I am not the kind of person to take advantage of such work at home policies, however, I do admit that sometimes I’m probably too cautious when it comes to getting on the road.

After getting made fun of one too many a time for not coming in, or finding I’m the only person that hasn’t made it, I’ve become pretty resolute on getting here no matter what*.  I take things like that to heart.  And let me tell you why.  I never make the decision not to come to the office just because I don’t feel like going in.  EVER. However, there is a common misconception that when people call in and say they will be working from home, they’re actually sitting in front of their TVs and only checking in via email every now and then.

This concept exists because of people I will refer to as “the ruiners”.  You know the type.  It’s the people whose Facebook statuses last night read like we were all still 21:  “Snow day tomorrow, start the drinking now” or “Praying my office closes-not that I’m going in anyway.”  It’s people like this that really ruin it for those of us that are honest and hardworking.

The decision for me to go in in not-so-ideal conditions is not a decision I make lightly.   A typical snowy morning goes something like this for me:

My alarm still goes off at 6 a.m.  Jared quickly tells me, “You’re not going in, the roads are too bad.”  To which I reply, “I’m just going to go see, and I’ll check if the schools are closed.”  I get out of bed, and turn the alarm off.  I look outside, in the dark, not able to see much of anything.  I scour the news and internet for any kind of omen or a sign regarding if I should go in.  I return to the bedroom, usually upset, saying I’m not sure what I should do.  Jared says I should not go.  I say, “I’m just going to take a shower and see what it looks like when it gets light.”  I shower, fretting the whole time.  I re-examine the conditions, and spend a bit more time freaking out.  I head back into the bedroom, “I’m going to leave now, and I’ll turn around if the roads are bad.”  Jared usually responds with, “OK, but make sure you really do turn around.”  (Sidenote: I did actually obey his instructions once last year).   Then, I typically enjoy an extremely slow hour long commute or more, but I make it in.  Only to find that a lot of other people did not and to realize that I might just be insane.

Why do I worry about it so much?  Why not just do what most other people do, and roll back over, or not even set the alarm at all when the weather seems bad? Why give it a second thought, and torture Jared through my decision making process?   Because it’s just not in my DNA to phone it in. My friends and family members are the same way.  We just don’t have what it takes to take such things for granted.  However, we worry and fret over them because we don’t want to be lumped into the same group of people that DO take work at home privileges for granted.  It’s because of this group of ruiners that a “snow day” will never be something I particularly look forward to.  It will always be coated in stress and anxiety and the fear that someone will think I’m lazy for not getting on the road, even if it truly is unsafe.

So, to those of you that knowingly take advantage of your company’s work at home policies, don’t set your alarms when the forecast is bad or just simply don’t care what people think, hats off to you.  Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us.  After all, you know that we’ll just pick up your slack anyway…….

*Writers Note:  I am in no way advocating people getting out on the road when conditions are not safe.  I am a total proponent of using your best judgment and not risking your life to get to the office if you can easily work from home.  Nor am I praising myself for the attitude that I have.  Trust me, I wish I could be more relaxed.  The opinions above are simply a bitter expression of envy towards those people that are not wired the way I am. 🙂

My sister and I were discussing the scale this morning, and it got me thinking about whether or not it was wise to have a scale accessible every day if you’re trying to lose weight.  My scale is in the bathroom, so I can step on it whenever I want.  My sister uses the scale at the gym and weighs in every week.  So, my question is, for people that struggle with body image issues, which is the better method:  mine or my sisters?

When I struggled with an eating disorder in college, I’d have to go to the health center to be weighed once a week to see if I was gaining.  When they weighed me, they made me stand backwards on the scale so I wouldn’t see the numbers.  Psychologically, they knew I couldn’t handle it.  And they were right.  Truth be told, I wonder if that’s still the case today.  Sometimes, I find myself using the scale for “motivation”.  Even if the number is up by 1/10 of a pound, I immediately begin to tell myself that if I keep this up, I’ll never lose weight, and begin to think I’m disgustingly obese with no hope of ever losing.  Not really the best self talk, huh?  My sister finds that even though she lost a pound this week, she’s still frustrated with the slow progress and wishes she could weigh herself every day.  However, her boyfriend fears she’ll turn such a ritual into unhealthy habits such as food deprivation and poor self image.

Opinions on this vary online.  Some articles say that weighing yourself every day can contribute to long-term weight loss, while others say that since your weight fluctuates so much daily and even weekly, it’s not such a good idea.  The article linked to above actually says both in the same write up!  While some women are able to use the scale as positive motivation, women that struggle with disordered eating may have the tendency to turn the scale into their worst nightmare.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind these tips when you come face to face with your scale:

1.)  Weigh yourself in the morning after you’ve been to the bathroom, with no clothes on.  If you’re going to weigh yourself once a day, or once a week, make sure you’re weighing yourself at the same time consistently for the most accurate reading.

2.)  Keep in mind that things like eating a big meal, eating meals high in sodium, etc. can cause your weight to fluctuate during the day.  Resist the urge to weigh yourself more than once a day at different times.

3.)  If you find that jumping on the scale each day is causing you to obsess in an unhealthy fashion over your weight, put the scale out of sight.  Take it out once a week to weigh in, or have a friend/partner do the weigh ins for you so you don’t see the numbers.

4.)  Remember that weight can sometimes be an inaccurate measure of your health.  Take measurements monthly on your waist size, or whatever else you’re interested in, and be sure to factor in your BMI as a guide.

Whatever your method for tracking your weight loss, remember that depriving your body of the nutrients found in food is counterproductive to losing weight.  Whatever the number, never let yourself get so frustrated that you stop eating!  Be realistic about your calorie needs to ensure that your body does not start storing fat instead of burning it.

If you hadn’t figured it out already, most of our restaurant choices come from NJ Monthly or from Jared’s tireless searches for breweries or restaurants with a great beer selection.  Our selection of Egan & Sons was a blend of both.  Jared recently found a Web site that lets you type in your zip code for a listing of breweries, beer bars, and other quality beer venues near you.  Egan & Sons came up on the list in Montclair, and was one we hadn’t tried yet.  Couple that with the fact that I remembered it from NJ Monthly, and we were set to meet some friends out for a great meal.

I was expecting Egan & Sons to be crowded to the point of hatred.  After all, it was Saturday night, it’s a bar/restaurant with quality beer, and the Jets were on.  The parking lot in the back off Label Street was full, but we got lucky when someone pulled out just as we were coming in.  The train station isn’t too far down the street, so perhaps parking wouldn’t be too much of an issue.  We only had to wait about 20 minutes for a table for 4, and there was a decent amount of room at the bar to wait and have a drink without feeling like you’re standing around awkwardly.  Egan & Sons had a very decent selection of beers on tap, as well as a great selection of bottled beers and their own craft beers.

While I wasn’t really feeling like trying the craft beers, Jared of course tried a sample of their beers, which included a lager, an amber, a pale ale and a stout for only $4 (which is great).  He decided to have a larger glass of the lager and stout since he thought that these had the most flavor and had a bit of character.  He thought the pale and the amber were lacking in flavor, making them taste the same. I had a small sip of the lager, which I didn’t find to be too heavily flavored, but I’ll defer to him on that one.  Overall, not our favorite place for beer, but the fact that they feature so many other great selections makes up for it.

The food at Egan & Sons, however, did not disappoint.  A mix of Irish pub/Americanized food choices, the menu had everything from simple bar food to fancy steaks.  Since I had been dieting all week, I went straight for the sliders with fries.  My only complaint was that they came with ketchup on them, which I hate.  No restaurant should just put the condiments on for you.  I was able to scrape it off, and I’m sure I ended up saving some calories on the bread, but still.  Jared had the Falafel burger, which was delicious.  Our friends had Fish and Chips, as well as a fabulous looking steak in a wonderful sauce that was on the specials menu.  One of our friends that joined us is a chef with extensive culinary training, so I was hoping the food would be up to par.  She thought everything was very delicious, with the exception of something the waiter referred to as “mushy peas.”  Not sure why anyone would order those, but avoid them as a side.  🙂

Recently I’ve been let down by the dessert choices in the restaurants we’ve been to.  Egan & Sons did me proud with their Sticky Toffee Pudding, which is absolutely my most favorite dessert.  While it certainly didn’t compare to the time I had it in London, it was still a very authentic replica, all warm and spongy and doused in caramel.  The NY Cheesecake our friends shared was very creamy and huge, a dessert I don’t even think I could have tackled.  Maybe it bordered on being too sweet, but apparently still delicious.

The overall atmosphere and experience at Egan & Sons really won me over.  While I came in expecting something a bit more like what we frequented in Ireland with sticky floors and rowdy college kids, the dining room made the experience very upscale without taking out the fun.  Egan & Sons food and beer selection certainly makes us wish we lived within walking distance, as I could see this quickly becoming a favorite!

My rating:  8/10

Egan & Sons
118 Walnut Street
Montclair, NJ 07042
973-744-1413
http://www.egannsons.com/

I read a lot in magazines and online about fitness and health.  I have my go-to sites, and Fitness Magazine‘s online information is quickly becoming a daily visit for me.

My sister started to read Fitness magazine a few weeks ago and was constantly telling me about the workouts she was finding, which she found to be really great.  The last thing I need right now is another magazine subscription, so she told me that most of the resources are online.  Fitness Magazine is owned by the same company that owns Better Homes and Gardens, so it turned out I already had a log-in!

My sister wasn’t kidding.  The workout suggestions are pretty great, and different from the usuals.  Fitness Magazine takes into account that a lot of people might not have equipment at home or a gym membership, and there are workouts that do not require a treadmill or any other equipment.  I think this is a great trend for fitness columns to move to.  While I do have a treadmill and weights, I don’t have an elliptical or stair climber, and it’s nice to see some variety that still gets the job done.

Another feature that I thought I had exhausted on other Web sites is the Healthy Recipes section.  I get a daily email that includes some great tips, with links to recipes and snack ideas.  I thought I had seen it all, but Fitness Magazine provides a new variety that is both reasonable and tasty.  While I’ve been unable to find a feature that lets me save them to my profile on the site, it’s just as easy to email them to myself.  (And store them in a folder labeled Cooking-yes, my personal inbox is THAT organized).

As I mentioned, I do subscribe to some of their daily emails that seem to integrate with other magazines under their fold (like Diabetic Living).  I typically delete a lot of the emails I get, but I’ve found myself clicking through on every link to at least browse what they have to say.

Of course Fitness Magazine also has a lot of features I haven’t delved into yet, like Communities and Videos.  Since I have so many options when it comes to videos on demand, I typically don’t turn on my computer to work out, but maybe down the road it would be worth trying.  Or, if you travel a lot, it’s a must!  I tend not to join Communities, but I’m sure they can be inspirational for those that like that sort of thing!

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, Fitness Magazine provides another great portal to inspire me with workout ideas, snack ideas, and more.  What’s more, Fitness Magazine is reasonable in their suggestions without bordering on unhealthy.  It’s great to see another magazine portraying positive ideas and thinking.

 

Maestro 206 is located in Hillsborough on, you guessed it, 206.  There used to be a restaurant there when we first moved to this area that looked great, however, it closed before we had the chance to try it.  We tried Maestro 206 out a few weeks ago to break up the boredom of a long week, and it ended up being a lot different than I was expecting.

From the Web site and Twitter, I was expecting  a bit more of a pub type atmosphere, however, the dining room is actually comparable to restaurants that cost twice as much without being too stuffy or over the top.  Of course I picked this restaurant because we had a coupon, but it also boasts a pretty thorough beer list for my beer brewing husband, with some very nice seasonals.  (And if you hadn’t figured it out yet,  we love a place that appreciates high quality beer as much as we do!

Service was honestly a bit slow, which was strange to me since it wasn’t that crowded.  It seemed to take longer than usual for our drinks to arrive and for our server to notice we were there.  However, the wait staff was very pleasant and friendly, and our food came out in a timely fashion.  To start, they bring out warm rolls that can be dipped in what we think was a pesto sauce or a roasted red pepper sauce.  Totally worth the extra calories.

The dinner menu was a pleasant surprise, with everything from duck to steak to a chicken salad wrap.  From the looks of the dining room, I was afraid that maybe there was a separate bar menu, and the choices in the dining room would be limited to the usual entrees, but the menu did not dissapoint, and certainly provides enough variety for groups with different tastes or moods.  I started with the soup of the day, which happened to be a carrot soup (*editors note-I can’t remember if it was carrot or not, but it was some vegetable that I don’t usually eat in a soup).  Although I’m not a huge fan of carrots (or insert other vegetable here), it was seriously delicious.  For my meal, I had the Chicken Waldorf Salad Wrap, which was very good.  Sometimes I’ve found that restaurants are too heavy on the mayo, but this was just the right mix.

We’re not ones to balk over paying good money for food.  At Maestro 206, Jared actually laughed when we got the check.  Our dinner total was more “lunch” total than dinner for a place that was so great, even though I forgot to use the coupon.  Maestro 206 seems like a great place to have a private party, or even just stop in for a drink.  And if you get the Clipper Magazine, you’re sure to find at least $5 off for your next visit!

My rating:  8/10

Maestro 206
150 U.S. 206
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
732-301-2555
http://www.maestro206.com/

Comfort food diet?  How is that even possible?  I thought the same thing myself when I saw this book advertised in a Taste of Home magazine I subscribe to.  Since we already have enough cookbooks to cook one meal each day for the next two years out of each book, I hadn’t thought about buying it.  However, my aunt needed gift ideas for us, of which I had none, so this went on the list.

comfortfooddietThe Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook is different from any cookbook I’ve ever looked through.  The beginning section provides meal plans, as well as healthy eating advice.  My favorite is a list of “free” foods, so to speak, or, foods you can eat without having to worry about calorie count.  The cookbook is then separated into breakfast, lunch, dinner, side dishes and desserts, with detailed meal planning guides and information about online resources.

I love the idea of someone telling me what to eat at each meal.  However, most plans often have foods that I don’t like as their main meals.  I’m not as picky as I used to be, but there are still things I just don’t like to eat.  And what’s the point of following a meal plan if I’m going to indulge later because I’m hungry?  This meal plan seems to have a nice variety of options, however, here comes gripe #2 with meal plans:  if you’re not working from home, how the heck are you supposed to prepare some of these things in the office?  All I have are a microwave and toaster oven at hand at the office, and some of these meals didn’t look like they could be prepared ahead of time and heated up the next day.  Oh well…

The best thing about this cookbook was how receptive Jared was to the recipes.  Usually, he looks through my low calorie diet cookbooks without interest.  When I gave him this cookbook, he picked 3 dinners out of it for this week alone!  So far, we’ve had Lime Chicken Tacos, which literally had 6 ingredients and sat in the crockpot all day, and the Balsamic Seasoned Steak.  The steak was full of flavor, however, I would have added a bit more lime juice to the tacos.  It could have been the size of my slow cooker, but I felt like the lime juice flavor was lost.

One thing to watch with the recipes is portion size.  The cookbook lists meals according to calorie count, however, just make sure you’re only having one serving in order to meet the calories listed.  Portion sizes are on the smallish side, so take that into account!

While I certainly have a lot of Taste of Home Cookbooks, this one will take priority right now in our meal planning due to the detailed nutritional information.  And, big bonus here, when I type the recipe name into Livestrong‘s My Plate calorie tracking app, it shows right up with the correct calorie and nutrition counts.  Taste of Home really wins big for that!  Happy cooking!

I love this time of year.  Everyone’s making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, while those of us that have always committed to that goal are revising our plans and continuing to keep up with the usual, envying those who begin to drop pounds immediately.  The upside of this is that the New Year’s advertising by health and fitness experts allows us to easily incorporate some variety into our routines!

I’ve talked about my great love for Exercise TV before, and how convenient the plans are.  I downloaded the 10 Pound Slimdown about 2 weeks ago and am now in Week 3 of the routine.  While I can’t say I ever believe a plan that promises you’ll lose that much weight, it never hurts to try a new routine.

Chris Freytag is the trainer for this video, and I was familiar with her through a video I bought awhile ago by Prevention.  I was a little worried the workouts wouldn’t be challenging enough after I’ve worked out with the likes of Jackie Warner and Jillian Michaels, but this series is actually pretty great.  The printable calendar instructs you regarding which workouts to do each day, rotating through a series of 5 workouts with 2 days off. I’m always attracted to workouts that build in two days off.  While I’m certainly committed to working out, sometimes it’s just not possible to get in a full 7 days, nor is it healthy.  Your muscles need time to rest!

Chris Freytag uses circuit training to take you through 20-25 minutes of lower body, upper body, core, yoga and a total body blast.  While yoga isn’t my thing, I have tried the other 4 and found them to be pretty effective for only 20 minutes.  The moves are challenging enough to keep me huffing and puffing, but not so challenging that I can’t complete them with good form.

Using the free plan on the TV still gives me access to each workout video, as well as the calendar and meal guide.  The DVD costs about $20 and to download the workouts it’s about $15.  I don’t think the workouts are longer if you pay for them, so I’m constantly wondering what the appeal is.  Perhaps they won’t always be available?  Whatever the case, breaking up a week’s worth of work into 5 20 minute segments has allowed me to stick to a plan and not skip days due to the fact that “I don’t have time”.  This is a great place to start, whether you’re making resolutions or renewing your commitment to feeling great!

What am I Tweeting?